Various Artists - Keepin' It Mellow

Samplers normally come along with a mishmash of several artists pressed on one single record. But on this new release of the Soulvibe-Label it's different. This time they have concentrated on only a few outstanding musicians, who are represented with two or three different songs. Some of the musicians are still established and some are just on their way to make their mark on the music-business. The title of this release Keepin' It Mellow lives up to its promise. It's a compilation of twelve smooth Soul-Tracks, which are simply producing a mellow atmosphere.

The opener Let It Ride  by Vel Lewis and Anson Dawkins just leads us into the right direction. It's an upbeat-number with a very nice transverse flute. Vel Lewis is an accomplished piano player, composer, writer, producer, and arranger, that has performed with such artists as The Delfonics, Ira Tucker Jr., Tom Borton and most recently Dionne Warwick. Anson Dawkins is best-known as a part of Dawkins & Dawkins, one of the most exciting duos in Contemporary Gospel, garnering both a 1993 Gospel Music Workshop of America Excellence Award and a Stellar Award nomination in the same year. He began singing in church at the age of 4, performing as a trio with his brother and his mother. Growing up travelling with his dad and performing at revivals as well as having musical influences such as Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire helped to shape his signature sound. Anson is the Minister of Music at New Covenant Christian Center in Seattle, WA and is also the founder of "Rhythm and Praise", a production company he shares with his brother Eric.

On this release Anson Dawkins and Vel Lewis are also performing another smooth song as a Trio (together with Eric Dawkins), called Keep Coming Back.

Vel Lewis is also represented with another track called My Sunshine, on which he is performing with female singer "Lina". Lina is an artist who is singing in the so called Neo-Soul, 1920s style. That's the initial impression that talented young singer/songwriter gives to listeners of her music. The Dallas, Texas native first hit the national airwaves in 2001 with her debut album "Stranger on Earth" on Atlantic Records. It was an unusual blend of genres ranging from hip-hop to swing, and included a minor hit with "Playa No Mo." Lina proved herself to also be a solid songwriter, penning "Ain't Nothing Like a Jones" for Tyrese. In 2004, Lina moved to up-and-coming urban adult label Hidden Beach, which has recently made a name for itself with intelligent, offbeat adult soul artists such as Jill Scott. Lina's Hidden Beach debut, the adult-oriented The Inner Beauty Movement, was released in June, 2005, several months after its initial single, "Come to Mama" hit radio.

Another featured artist on this release is Eric Watkins, who is performing three duets with Nelson K, a HipHop/R&B-Artist, who produced a nice record in 2001 called "Loves Makes You Blind". Their first duet called We Steppin is a song with a cool groove, just made for dancing. The second piece of this duo is called Average Woman, a very soft and smooth R&B-Number. The third song is called You Know, another nice example of their ability to mix R&B with Soul in a very dulcet manner.

One of the established musicians on this album definitely is Nate Best, who was a former member of the popular Philadelphia soul group "The O'Jays". This group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004 and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. In his first two songs on this release Check It Out and How Can You, he showcases his outstanding Soul-voice, backed up by a great choir, which sounds like a reminiscence of the legendary "Earth Wind and Fire". The third piece entitled Stand In Your Way is a beautiful ballad, where he demonstrates his more romantic side.

Another established musician is ex- "Kool and the Gang"- member Odeen Mays. His two endearing ballads I Refuse To Let You Break My Heart and Wrong About You definitely are highlights on this release.

The last of the featured artists on this compilation is David Odom. His song Thinking About You is a vivid Soul-Number. The timbre of his voice and the manner of his vocal performance remind a lot of Al Jarreau.

All in all, this new compilation provides an impressive insight into the American contemporary Soul/R&B-Scene and can be highly recommended for music lovers, who just love Keepin' It Mellow.

Keepin' It Mellow
Soulvibe Recordings
Pinnacle Records

1. Let It Ride
2. Check It Out - Nate Best
3. Keep Coming Back - Vel Lewis
4. We Steppin - Eric Watkins
5. How Can You - Nate Best
6. My Sunshine - Vel Lewis
7. I Refuse - Odeen Mays
8. Stand In Your Way - Nate Best
9. Thinking About You - David Odom
10. Average Woman - Eric Watkins
11. You Know - Eric Watkins
12. Wrong About You - Odeen Mays

Release Date: 28 May '07

Mr. M.